Ontario eases social restrictions for long-term care homes, allows overnight outings and brief hugs

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From next Wednesday, long-term care residents in Ontario can enjoy more social connections with their loved ones.

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, announced the changes in visitor policy and guidance document on Thursday.
“Thanks to high immunization levels, residents and their families can resume more of the activities that contribute to their quality of life,” she said.

As per the new guidelines, residents who have been fully immunized can leave their long-term care homes for day and overnight social outings and trips. Residents with mobility limitations or health conditions (essentially, factors unrelated to weather) that make participating in outdoor visits highly unlikely or impossible may have one general visitor at a time inside the long-term care home, in addition to an essential caregiver.

Brief hugs will also be allowed, regardless of resident and visitor vaccination status. Where both the resident and visitors are fully immunized, close physical contact, including handholding, can now take place safely.

As of May 30, 2021, it is estimated that, across Ontario, 97 per cent of long-term care residents are fully immunized and more than 89 per cent of staff have received at least their first dose, with approximately 66% fully immunized.

Since vaccines do not provide 100 per cent protection and long-term care residents remain at higher risk when it comes to the impact of COVID-19, the province is urging all staff, visitors, and residents to continue following public health measures including masking, physical distancing (with exceptions for fully immunized caregivers), hand hygiene, and staying at home when they are sick.

Earlier this week Ontario made it mandatory for long-term care homes to have COVID-19 immunization policies for staff while setting out the minimum requirements that need to be included in these policies. Homes will now be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies, including overall staff immunization rates.

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